Buying laptops for all 800,000 public school teachers 'an impossible dream': Gatchalian

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 08:50 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2020 12:11 AM

Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) hold a protest in front of the Department of Education (DepEd) headquarters in Pasig City on June 09, 2020. The groups raised concern on the accessibility of digital learning tools to both teachers and students with DepEd’s shift to online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Procuring a laptop for all 800,000 public school teachers in the Philippines is an "impossible dream," Senate Committee on Basic Education, Culture and Arts Sherwin Chairman Gatchalian said Friday, as the education system prepared for online classes amid the continuing coronavirus threat. 

Gatchalian made the comment a day after the Department of Education (DepEd) presented to his committee its preparations for the shift to online and distance-learning classes during the global pandemic.

"Impossible dream 'yan (That's an impossible dream)," the senator said in an online press conference when asked to comment about DepEd's plan to provide laptops for every public school teacher.

"'Yung laptop bibigyan isa-isa, hindi kakayanin 'yan, knowing our budget limitations," he said.

(Knowing our budget limitations, we cannot afford to give a laptop to every teacher.)

Under the law, Congress allocates the biggest chunk of the annual budget to DepEd, the largest bureaucracy with hundreds of thousands of personnel on salary and thousands of public schools operated and maintained. 

Under the 2020 budget, the DepEd received P521 billion, P20 billion higher than its allocation in 2019.

But the government has slashed at least P8 billion off DepEd's budget this year to augment funding for programs against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"The best support is load or puwede gamitin ng teachers 'yung school as a WiFi hub," he said.

(The best support is load [for connectivity] or teachers can use the school as a WiFi hub.)

DepEd officials earlier said that it expected to have some 1.3 million tablets and computers in 2020, but these would be distributed to both teachers and students.

As of June 25, 13.8 million students have enrolled in public schools, while 558,000 learners were registered in private education institutions.

Classes are set to start on August 24 in public schools, with alternative modes of learning to be implemented through online and broadcast media platforms as physical meetings are disallowed because of the virus outbreak.